The key to salary negotiations is careful preparation and making a convincing argument. Here are 10 tips to help you negotiate your salary like a pro, whether with a potential employer or your current boss.
Start by looking at the salaries generally paid for positions or functions similar to yours, in the same field of business. Of course, since remuneration is often cloaked in secrecy, especially in the private sector, comparing salaries is far from an exact science. But certain resources, such as Emploi Québec, Employment Ontario and Statistics Canada can offer general guidelines. The federal government also publishes open data on wages. If you are a member of a profession, your professional order or association can give you information on average salaries in your field. Lastly, ask friends and people in your social network, or invite colleagues or partners for a cup of coffee to discuss salaries and find out what the competition is paying.
Your salary requests will only be taken seriously if they’re based on facts, rather than personal desires. Make a list of your recent successes and tell your current or potential employer about them. These could include a presentation that landed an advertising contract for your agency, a successful negotiation with a supplier, how you retained a client who was on the verge of going elsewhere, etc. If possible, put a number on the revenues or the savings that your actions brought about.
In addition to your top achievements, also think about how you’ve exceeded expectations. Consider how your personal skills and expertise have contributed to the organization on a daily basis: You are energetic and on point during team meetings, you stand out for your ability to deal with clients’ concerns, you are excellent at conflict resolution, your incredible patience makes you good at training, etc. This is your added value, and it can be a powerful asset.
Put yourself in the shoes of your boss or your potential employer. What challenges does the industry or the organization face? Does the company have plenty of orders, or is it running short? Has it made recent acquisitions or, on the other hand, is it trying to restructure financially? To gain insight, study the organization’s latest annual reports or strategic plan. Ask yourself what qualities you have that could help you to push the company in the direction its managers and shareholders want.
Before negotiating, make sure you understand the organization’s remuneration system. What’s the gap between the various salary levels. Is there a bonus system? To gauge the employer’s wiggle room, try to find out how much money is set aside for salary increases, perhaps by contacting the human resources department. If that’s not an option, refer to guidelines from specialists, such as human-resources consulting firms, which release annual salary-adjustment forecasts.
If you can’t nail down the kind of raise you were expecting, think about other types of compensation you could ask for. Examples include extra vacation time or days off, a more flexible schedule, shares in the company, increased employer contributions to your RRSP, reimbursement of tuition or professional development costs, financial compensation for your cellphone or travel costs, reimbursement for parking or transit costs, a performance bonus, payment of your annual professional association fees, a gym membership, etc. Keep in mind that a raise is not the only factor when it comes to workplace happiness!
On the big day, if the meeting with your employer wasn’t on the agenda, it’s possible they’ll be less receptive to your demands. A boss who’s coming out of a tough meeting or who’s dealing with an urgent issue might not give you their full attention when you do sit down.
Let the other person speak first. If it’s your boss, ask them, for example, how they feel about your performance. If you’re dealing with a potential employer, don’t start by talking salary – try to get a grasp of their needs first. Know how to listen, and demonstrate your understanding of the context. Pay attention to the other person’s body language as well as what they’re saying. You’ll then be able to present your requests in a strategic and confident manner.
Don’t accept the first offer that comes your way – ask for a little time to think about it. Take a few days to consult with friends or family. If the salary offered doesn’t suit you, propose a counter-offer, and make sure to include some extras. One more thing: You can also ask that your performance be reviewed after a brief probation period, after which you could be eligible for a raise.
Make sure that the written offer or the annual performance and salary review contains all the details discussed during the meeting.
Finally, make sure your requests are fair and legitimate, and present them with respect and trust. Keep in mind that candidates who play the negotiating game – without asking for the moon – often earn their bosses’ respect. Satisfied with a good negotiation process, your employer will take you that much more seriously in future, whether you’re continuing in the same job or starting a new one.
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